Greenland Ice Melt: Unprecedented Since 1889

by Charles C. W. Cooke

The BBC announces an environmental crisis in Greenland:

The surface of Greenland’s massive ice sheet has melted this month over an unusually large area, Nasa has said.

Scientists said the “unprecedented” melting took place over a larger area than has been detected in three decades of satellite observation.

Such melting is unprecedented. Well, not exactly unprecedented. But it hasn’t happened since 1889, and that was a really long time ago:

According to ice core records, such pronounced melting at Summit station and across the ice sheet has not occurred since 1889.

“When we see melt in places that we haven’t seen before, at least in a long period of time, it makes you sit up and ask what’s happening,” Nasa chief scientist Waleed Abdalati said.

Fair enough. Nonetheless, perhaps it really is time to “sit up and ask what’s happening.” This was an unexpected and worrisome event that can only augur badly:

“Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time,” said Lora Koenig, a glaciologist from Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and a member of the research team analysing the satellite data.

“But if we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome.”

Unexpected? Not so much. Worrisome? Well, one could have said such things in the past, too. In, say, 1889. And for now:

Scientists said they believed that much of Greenland’s ice was already freezing again.

So, providing that we ignore that this is cyclical and, neglect to acknowledge that the jet stream has taken a southerly track this season, putting Greenland under high pressure blocking for months, it looks as if we have sufficient cause to panic. Run!

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